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Facebook says Netflix and Spotify 'needed' write access to users' messages

"No third party was reading your private messages, or writing messages to your friends without your permission," said the social network.

Justin Tallis / AFP/Getty Images

Facebook on Wednesday said it was necessary to grant Spotify and Netflix special access to users' private messages to enable integration of messaging features.

The social media giant said in a blog post that experimental features no longer offered required granting read/write access to the companies. The blog post comes a day after The New York Times reported that Facebook gave the companies greater access to users' personal data than the social-networking company previously disclosed.

"We've been accused of disclosing people's private messages to partners without their knowledge," Facebook VP of Product Partnerships Ime Archibong wrote in a blog post. "That's not true."

The experiments allowed Facebook users to share messages with friends about what they were listening to on Spotify or watching on Netflix, Archibong said. He said the experiences were only available when users logged into the services through Facebook and were shut down nearly three years ago.

In order for you to write a message to a Facebook friend from within Spotify, for instance, we needed to give Spotify "write access." For you to be able to read messages back, we needed Spotify to have "read access." "Delete access" meant that if you deleted a message from within Spotify, it would also delete from Facebook. No third party was reading your private messages, or writing messages to your friends without your permission.

Facebook has been under scrutiny since the revelation in March that consultancy Cambridge Analytica had misused Facebook user data in the run-up to the 2016 US presidential election. Since then, Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg has testified in front of Congress and the European Parliament to answer questions about Facebook's handling of user data.

Archibong's post comes a day after the Times reported that Facebook had special data-sharing arrangements with several companies, including giving Microsoft's Bing search engine access to the names of all Facebook users' friends without consent and permitting Yahoo to view streams of friends' posts as recently as this summer.

In a statement Tuesday, Facebook denied allowing its partners to ignore people's privacy settings. Netflix said that while it tried to use Facebook to boost its usability among customers, it never read users' private messages on the social media site.

Spotify said earlier it couldn't immediately comment on the report.

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